Review of “The Taker” by Alma Katsu

I really wanted to like this book, since it had been highly recommended to me. It did not happen in this case however; I just found the writing below par, with characters ranging from insipid to unsympathetic to repulsive.

The story begins in the present day with an awkwardly-wrought third-person narrative focused on the point-of-view of Luke Findley, a divorced and distraught young doctor. It then switches to a tale from the past that begins in 1809, narrated by a young woman, Lanore (“Lanny”), who has been brought to the hospital under Luke’s care for treatment. Lanny’s narrative is the more compelling; when it switches back to Luke, the author loses confidence, or maybe just interest, since Luke is as dull as dry toast.

Lanny’s story describes how she became immortal and how she managed to kill her not-immortal-anymore ex-boyfriend Jonathan. In order to finish telling her story to Luke, however, she needs him to sneak her out of the hospital and away from the police, who await her treatment for shock in order to take her into custody for the murder. Luke, feeling an inexorable pull towards this woman-who-looks-like-a-child (yet another awful aspect of this book), agrees.

Lanny and her story are more interesting, but not in a good way. The characters she describes are pretty close to evil, and obsessed with sex for expressing just about everything but love. Most of the time, it is used for manipulation, or worse still, as a weapon.

In addition, in both the past and the present narratives, there is a preoccupation with and overvaluing of physical beauty over inner worth. Maybe that’s because there isn’t much inner worth in evidence. The incredibly-beautiful-in-appearance character Jonathan is identified in the book as “The Taker,” but really, he is far from the only one. Lanny and Luke are supposedly “givers,” but actually they are more like pathetic enablers with no self-esteem. Nor is there much moral equivocating in the story beyond the occasional twinge over will-I-get-caught. After a while the reader begins to feel as vapid as the characters, simply for not throwing the book out the window.

Evaluation: I did not like this book: I loathed the repulsive distortions of sex, love, and commitment evinced by the characters, whom I loathed as well, and I didn’t respect the writing. The nice twist at the end did not begin to compensate for the rest of it.

Rating: 1.5/5

Published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2011


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25 Responses to Review of “The Taker” by Alma Katsu

  1. zibilee says:

    Oh, I am sorry that you hated this one, but I have to agree that the sections revolving around Luke were very boring. I didn’t like him much, and chose to totally ignore him in my review. I did seem to enjoy this one much more than you did, but I am glad to see your reasoning and thoughts behind why this didn’t work for you. Sometimes dissenting opinions can be just as fascinating to read as assenting ones!

  2. sandynawrot says:

    Insipid? Repulsive? Oh dear! Well, this is the stuff that makes the world go round! As I was reading this book, I knew it would be polarizing. It is certainly OUT THERE. I guess the fact that I was totally into this story is a sign of my sick and twisted side, the side that completely consumed all of Anne Rice’s earlier stuff!

  3. Jenny says:

    Wow! Interesting how you found the characters enablers with low self-esteem. Based on your description I could see how that would be true. I don’t know if I’ll get to this one or not, but I almost want to just to see where I fall in terms of the difference between yours and Sandy’s and Heather’s opinions!

  4. JoAnn says:

    Just read Sandy’s review, and have to say I love the contrast! Doubt very much this is the book for me though…

  5. Sorry to see this didn’t work for you. I want to read this now and see if I’m on Team Sandy or Team Jill. 😉

  6. Barbara says:

    I read a description of this book and knew from it that this probably was not a book for me. Sure glad I decided that because your review convinced me I was right to pass on it. Great review, though!

  7. Stephanie says:

    This looks like it might be one of those books that you either love or hate. Sorry your fell into the hate catagory!

  8. Staci says:

    Wow..what varying thoughts on this one huh? Whenever this happens it turns out that I usually have to read them and decide for myself!! 😀

  9. I have this book and am debating on including it in the RIP Challenge, but it’s such a motivating challenge, I might be able to squeeze it in. If so, I’ll definitely refer back to your review as well!

  10. Julie P. says:

    Wow — 1.5! I didn’t think I’d like this, but I did. I thought the story was clever although I agree that I didn’t really like any of the characters.

  11. Janel says:

    I think we’re all drawn to different types of people in real life as well as characters in fiction. To each his own!

  12. Right.on. Every word. Now I think I was too mild in my review! When Lanny was getting romantic designs on the guy who orchestrated her gang rape, well, I had to walk away from the book for a while. I don’t mind sex or vulgarity but it really felt all pointless — and the characters were all so unappealing.

  13. Melody says:

    I just read Sandy’s review and I’ve to say I loved reading both your and Sandy’s opinions! I’ve this book in my pile and I look forward to it.

  14. Jenners says:

    So … not a big fan. It is fun when bloggers I like disagree. But now I’m afraid to read it for fear that I’ll have to “choose” one of you over the other. HAHA!

  15. Care says:

    Hmmmmm. Usually, I would have to read this to find out who I agree with more, but TOO-MANY-BOOKs problem will be my excuse for passing on this.

  16. Amy says:

    It’s pretty cool getting opposing viewpoints of the same book on the same day. If I wasn’t paying attention I’d almost think Heather, Sandy and you read different books! Now I know Luke has a story and it’s boring. It’s creepy and disturbing to me that Luke is attracted to Lanny, a woman who looks like a child. Ick. I also think I could turn on any of the top three networks and watch a very similar tale unfold on one of several daytime “stories” i.e.a soap opera! I don’t like soap operas at all. I thought this was a book that I was interested in reading but now….ugh! I’m sorry this was such a bad experience for you but at least the chances are good thet you will like whatever you read next better than this bok!

  17. Alyce says:

    From Sandy’s description I thought it would be an interesting book, even if not in my normal reading, just because of the longevity. I like books (like Tuck Everlasting) that play with supernatural longevity, but not normally in a paranormal/vampire or icky way. 🙂 I’m very anti-icky, which I’m sure you know. Your review makes me want to pass on it for sure (since it would probably be a stretch that I would like it anyway).

  18. softdrink says:

    Well, damn…I just downloaded this yesterday.

  19. Samantha says:

    I’m in the middle of reading this right now and I’m wondering if I’m going to feel the same way. I’m having a hard time picking it up and I’ve found that it is a LOT darker than I expected it to be. I’m thinking that readers are either going to love it or hate it. I’m not caring for it as of right now…

  20. I read this entire book and for the most part I enjoyed reading it. However, I did not like the vulgarity of it and I don’t actually think the detailed sexual violence was necessary. All the reader needs to know is that a character is capable of something.

    I completely agree with some of the reviewers here that Luke’s story was boring and actually felt quite rushed. In fact I would say there was no real need to include him at all. If this was (however unlikely) made into a film my guess is they would show a short present day scene, flip back to the past and tell Lanny’s story, most likely cut Adair’s story into one flashback scene or just him quickly summarising in a few sentences and just focus on Lanny throughout, ending with a scene back in the present day.

    Although she begins as quite the likeable poor girl, you grow to considerably dislike Lanny. No woman would fall or should I say romanticise about a guy involved in her gang rape, or if they did they would at least acknowledge at some point that they were not thinking straight or in their right minds afterwards. Lanny had years alone and plenty of time to reflect on this but the character seems to have adapted and become a wiling participant instead.

    I found the parts about Luck just deterred from the story and really were just filler. Perhaps the author had a word count to achieve?
    Adair’s story was far too long. If it was an attempt to make the reader relate to him as being a victim and not just a monster, it didn’t really work and still could have been done a lot faster. This story is told over time and so the focus really should have remained from Lanny’s point of view.

    I enjoyed the whole story between Lanny and Jonathan and I think had this book remained focused on this and cut out a lot of Lanny’s time with Adair it could have been summarised as a tragic love story, where one person can love someone so much but never have that love returned. Instead it diverted off the track too many times and focused way too much on the brutality from within Adair’s house.

    Personally I think this could have been a great tragic love story, incorporating immortality, the author just didn’t focus on the right areas and basically wrote too much. Again if this was a film, you cut about 40 – 50% out.
    Shame, I enjoyed this book but only because I chose to forget Luke’s story and try to block out Adair. Perhaps this book should be re-edited?

  21. stacybuckeye says:

    So, another book I do not have to read. Thank you 🙂

  22. sagustocox says:

    I am reading this now…will come back to comment later on.

  23. Serena says:

    I agree that there is an overemphasis on outward beauty and I think that is tied to Lanny’s character…especially given that she is narrating and seems to have never grown up and understood the true meaning of “love”

  24. Pingback: The Taker, by Alma Katsu – Book Review | Linus's Blanket

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